All Points Bulletin: Reloaded Review
It has been over a year since All Points Bulletin and Realtime Worlds closed their doors, but thankfully that wasn’t the end of the game thanks to All Points Bulletin: Reloaded and GamersFirst. Recently fresh out of beta, APB: Reloaded attempts to fix all of the faults that caused the game not to last past the first three months while supplying new and fresh content. Is that enough to fix a game with one of the shortest lifespans in MMOG history or is APB doomed from the start?
APB: Reloaded makes the use of user generated content and voice chat. While it’s not the wild west of allowing free content, you can find profane subject matter rather easily. That’s on top of a game rated M (Mature 17+) for a laundry list of reasons (Blood, Drug References, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, and Violence). So this is defiantly not one for the kids.
Gameplay - 70 / 100
The basic game plays as follows. It’s a story of cops (Enforcers) and robbers (the aptly named Criminals) in an all-out war in San Paro. It’s an MMO with a Grand Theft Auto like experience complete with cars, guns, and dynamic missions. Players pick their side and are given tasks to complete that either involve them breaking or enforcing the law while other players are dispatched to stop them. Criminals may be asked to steal something valuable while Enforcers would be tasked to prevent them from doing so at all costs. The auto-grouping system places players together to try and coax them into working together while an “ask for backup” system allows players to beg for additional help should the teams unbalance themselves. Oh, don’t forget the full character customization suite (and when I say suite, I mean it, we’re talking car, body, music, clothes, and more) that is extraordinarily robust (and some players may find more exciting than trying to slay one another in mortal combat).
The game is fun and exciting, but some may opt to play the social game more than the actual combat.
APB:R is billed as a tactical shooter but there isn’t as much "tactical" as it is a fairly true-to-form MMO. There is a one size fits all hit box for characters meaning that there are no headshots (aka “skillshots”). So a sniper rifle does full damage if you blast someone in the head or in the torso. There also isn’t much to the combat beyond point at the enemy and click, and of course, upgrading your weapon.
There isn’t any fancy pantsy Warriors and Warlocks or Medics and Spies in APB:R. Instead you have access to all of the weapons in the game (as you unlock them and can only procure them for 10 days at a time) and that determines your effective damage/power. This lends the game to more skill versus “leveling up”, although you’ll find yourself coming to a gun fight with a pickle versus a bazooka when you first start, and will have to grind your way to that “balanced from start to finish” part.
As much as I rag on the combat, there are drastic improvements over the original game. Weapons deal more damage making fights take less time, servers are stable, and Punkbuster does a good job keeping the hackers at bay. Car physics has drastically improved too, although you’ll still want to upgrade your vehicle in order for it to not drive like an ice cream truck loaded down with grand pianos.
APB is also a game that rewards practice and involvement. Things can get hairy when you fight against even opponents not equipped with the starting pickle and the game can be a blast once you’ve gotten over the steep learning curve. Like how to avoid grenades, how to avoid people sneaking up on you, how to switch weapons, and other things the more experienced players will use against you. This isn’t a game to judge for the first hour or the first day, although you will die endlessly at the start until you get a better hold of the game and better weapons (at least the cucumber, squash, or above).
Of course, by the time you do become skilled, the lack of mission variation (or any variation at all) may have soured you on an otherwise alright game.
Graphics - 65 / 100
One thing this game does not have going for it is its graphics. The only reason it gets a 65 instead of a 20 is that the free-to-play market has some of the worst games for graphics out there and APB:R is definitely one notch above them. That isn’t to say the game looks horrible. Nay, it just doesn’t look good. We’re talking pixelated buildings, generic graphics everywhere, and character models that look more Saints Row 2 than Call of Duty.
Explosions are rather showy, but are one of the quickest ways to find yourself at the respawn point.
You won’t go blind from playing, but you’re not going to write home about any gorgeous graphics here. The player created tags adorning the various vehicles help mix up the rather bland mudded out landscape. You can turn the settings up and the bloom filter, but that isn’t much either.
Sound - 82 / 100
You’ll see a bright and shiny 80 there because the game would snag a 100 for simply allowing you to use your own music or stream from Last.fm if the police siren and horn did not exist. You’ll find that you’ll need these two tools to stop pedestrians from getting in your way (as an Enforcer) and will face drastic penalties should you run them over. Sadly, you’ll need to blare both and hope that the sound is annoying enough to make them flee out of your way.
Otherwise, most of the sound in the game comes from either the built in mixer studio, Last.fm, or your own hard drive and you can pick and choose your tunes as you ride through town. Should you be playing something that no one else has then Last.fm will attempt to match a similar song. Music aficionados can become their own virtual DJs in the social districts by blaring their own custom made tunes for the general populace, providing a neat audio related gameplay experience.
Multiplayer - 70 / 100
Don’t let APB:R trick you with the “MMO” part. You are not at any point going to go collect the rear end of any bears for any form of progression. The missions in this game are cooperative assignments that have you trying to reach and capture, collect, or protect objectives before the opposing side stops you. Auto-grouping works to put players into groups for the dynamically assigned missions that send you out into the world for PvP combat.
The de facto example is that Criminals will be grouped up and told to rob a store while Enforcers will be dispatched to stop them. The Criminals will be assigned to “rob the store” which is interact with the store while the Enforcers will be assigned to “protect the store” or stop any Criminals from interacting with it.
If you can get everyone to work together than this is a multiplayer masterpiece, but the odds of success are below 10% or one in every 10 missions.
When everything comes together, the players all have about the same level weaponry and skill, and everyone works as a team the multiplayer aspect shines brightly and APB:R becomes an immoderately fun game. If any kinks pop up (a player sits at the Joker weapon booth, someone takes their car for a joy ride in the opposite direction while the entire team is loaded into it and then proceeds to blow it up, etc.) then the multiplayer aspect can sour things.
Griefing is also rampant and, in milder forms, encouraged as you’ll be playing your mission and players who aren’t in your mission may ride through knocking everyone out of their way and in general be annoying. This can sour the fun, but for some may add a bit of enjoyment.
Value - 87 / 100
Most free-to-play games allow those with the hard cash to walk over those who don’t wish to pay, but in APB this simply isn’t true. You can buy or rent weapons from the marketplace but that isn’t going to give you the instant win chance (and most weapons are obtainable in game anyway). The only necessary object that you’ll want from the store is the premium subscription, which increases your in-game rewards and comes at the rather nice price of $12.50 USD the first month and $10.00 USD for subsequent months.
Most weapons and items in the game are unlockable by earning standing with the various NPCs and with the in-game cash (through either the auction house or from the NPCs themselves) along with all of the customization options.
You won’t find people running around instantly killing you thanks to their amazing purchases, so rest assured that you won’t have to pay money to come out ahead, but you can shave off a lot of grinding through either the premium or buying your favorite weapon out right.
Lasting Appeal - 77 / 100
One thing APB has going for it is the ability to log in and jump right into the action (after a rather long loading screen of course). You don’t have to beg for groups or sit somewhere asking players to help you raid the local liquor store. The game assists you and other would be goody two shoes or gangsters in grouping up and launching yourselves into the fray of combat. Yet, it can get pretty repetitive after a while of doing the same missions over and over again but the missions themselves are just merely captions on your adventure, the real meat and potatoes is the combat.
Working on making the hottest "hot rod" in town can be a fun way to play APB since you're capable of showing off your creations in the social district.
Should the actual combat become too boring for you then there is another entire aspect of the game in the form of the customization options. You can spend all day long building your gear out from designing your own t-shirts and jeans to “pimping” out your sweet ride. The social district is a game within a game when it comes to designing your own clothes and even customizing the music that plays when you finally “cap” someone with your “sweet” weaponry.
So there aren’t any quests that take you on a magical journey. Nay, this is a shooter, and it does what a shooter lets you do: load the game up and shoot people. So if that’s your cup of tea then grab some biscuits because you’ll be stuck here awhile. If not, expect it to not cling on to you for more than a few days.
Pros and Cons
- Fast paced shooter mayhem in a nice crispy free-to-play MMO wrapper that’s easy to get into and play.
- Auto-grouping removes the social drainage and makes the action flow quick and steady.
- Full-fledged customization options lets you be who you want to be in the world of San Paro.
- A single hitbox takes the skill out of aiming.
- Grinding can get boring and the missions can become extremely repetitive.
- A steep learning curve can ruin an overall alright game.
All Points Bulletin has improved drastically from its original launch, but isn’t necessarily the MMO Grand Theft Auto we’ve all been looking for. It’s a fun time-waster that the free-to-play crowds will have a blast with, while the dedicated MMO and Shooter fans may still turn their noses up at APB:R. If you like the above-the-shoulder online shooter and want to have some casual fun, then APB:R might be the game for you. But if you’re hoping for a solid RPG experience too, then you may find yourself disappointed.
Overall 75/100 - Pretty Good
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